Sunday, June 22, 2014

1954 United Convair Promo Film - A wonderful slice of Mid-Fifties Culture

Bob DuBert sent the following email:

"Posted on YouTube earlier this week is "The Sky is For Everyone", a beautifully produced promo film by United for the Convair 340.

Lady Skywriter notes: Set aside a half hour to watch this wonderful snapshot of the 1950s on full screen. See what passengers wore on the airplane: mink scarves draped on the women, who also wore small hats with veils, gloves and high heels. Notice the men in three-piece suits and the automobiles of the day. In addition to the Convair 340, catch a glimpse of a Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser and a Douglas DC-6. And appreciate the film itself - the majestic announcer and the background music.

Bob continues: "If Northwest had bought Convairs instead of those junkpile Martins, there would have been no crashes, no financial crisis, no Harold Harris. Just think how different the company history might have been! Of course, then Croil Hunter might have remained president a few more years, Donald Nyrop might have stayed in his law practice, and who knows what might have happened as the 1950s transitioned into the Sixties.

"North Central, of course, bought Convairs, both the 340 and 440, subsequently re-engined to 580 specs., which eventually lived happily at Northwest for a few years."

Lady Skywriter notes: One reason given for Northwest being the only major airline world-wide to purchase a fleet of 25 Martin 202s, was that Martin was able to deliver them months earlier than the Convairs would be available, thus giving Northwest a competitive edge. This decision proved disastrous, as outlined in the December, 2013 REFLECTIONS, NWA History Centre newsletter.

Bob DuBert in a later email:  "In some ways, aircraft decisions are a crap shoot.  Nyrop ordered the Lockheed Electra, and the Tell City crash could have crippled the company . . . more recently, Northwest was the launch customer for the 787, which Delta cancelled, a decision which turned out to be very smart in light of the major losses incurred by United after that plane was grounded for months. You just never know how things are going to turn out."

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Friday, June 20, 2014

NWA Systems Operations Control, Segment 2 October, 1996

Thursday, June 19, 2014

NWA Systems Operations Control, Segment 1 October, 1996

Thanks to Bob DuBert for alerting me to this. A fond look-back at a great airline! Watch for Segment 2, tomorrow!

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

D-Day Pilot Dick Brown Remembers . . .

l-r Dick Brown and Joe Farrell with their Martin B-26 Marauder bomber
Photo courtesy Richard Brown

June 6, 1944, retired Northwest Airlines Captain Dick Brown participated in the D-Day invasion, a significant turning point for Allied forces in WW II.

Today, 70 years later, his memory of that day is crystal clear.

"We knew something was up," Dick said.  "We heard this huge racket around midnight.  We all ran outside and looked up.  The sky was full of C-47's (DC-3's) towing gliders.  We went back to bed. A couple of hours later they woke us up again and by 5 a.m. we were taking off from our base in England in lousy weather - 500 ft. ceiling and raining.  We had to form up under the clouds, then climbed up in formation to on top, which was about 11,000 ft.  During climb we lost two aircraft when the leader made a turn, they lost sight of us and crashed into each other.  When we came out on top it was daylight, so we tried to regroup and join with other aircraft. Over the channel we found a hole in the clouds and descended down to 1500 ft. to get under the cloud layer. The channel was full of ships as far as we could see. We headed for our target on Utah Beach and we could see landing craft about 1/4 mile off shore. I felt sorry for them because they would be digging a foxhole in the sand while I would be back in my bunk on dry land.  We got shot at by ground fire but didn't lose any aircraft over the target so we headed home."

Dick's bomb group moved to southern England in July and then to Normandy in August to an air field just inland from Omaha Beach.   "I had two crash landings, but both times the whole crew survived them.  Had the nose shot off twice, and at least three times they counted over 100 holes from flak," Dick recalls.

He flew 66 missions, the last on September 12, 1944.

"I arrived back in the states in October, 1944, and after some R&R at home I spent the winter towing targets for B-24's out of Harlingen Texas. There were seven W.A.S.P.'s in the outfit and they were great pilots," he said.
"I was discharged in May, 1945 at Fort Snelling and went over to Northwest Airlines to apply for a pilot job. They told me it would be a couple of months and I got a call from them in August."

Thus began his 36-year career  as an airline pilot. Dick started in the DC-3 and spent the last seven years of his NWA career flying the Boeing 747.  Along the way he flew, and thankfully survived, the ill-fated Martin 202, which was Martin's attempt to capture the commercial aviation market after WW II.  Note: The Martin B-26 Marauder bomber Dick flew during the war was the precursor to the 202.
Dick Brown today - full of vim, vigor (and stories)  at 92 years of age.
Photo Anne Kerr

Oh yes. Joe Farrell (photo on top of page) and Dick were reunited at Northwest Airlines a year after they returned from the war. Dick was hired a month before Joe, so he was senior to him, which provided endless ribbing over the years.  Joe Farrell died in 2005. Stay tuned for more Dick Brown stories in future posts.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Howie Wing Gallery

In my last post, I tell how former Northwest Airlines stewardess Helen Jacobson Richardson is key to my discovery of Howie Wing.

To recap, for one year prior to joining Northwest Airlines, Helen flew for United Airlines.

Helen Jacobson at work for United Airlines, 1938-1939

In January, 1939, Kellogg promoted Howie Wing by arranging the first radio broadcast from an airplane.  Here Helen Jacobson is making sure Bill Janney, who played the part of "Howie", sound effects man Alexander Binnie and actor Robert Strauss are comfortable.

Helen's experience set me on a hunt for information about Howie Wing. Who was he? Please note: This will not be  the whole delicious story of Howie Wing and Kathy and Jim Hanmel's discovery of long-lost episodes of Howie Wing, A Saga of Aviation radio shows.  For the whole story, please read Kathy's 3-part report of 2005 and her follow up report in June 2007 in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club.

"The airplane had greater impact upon our popular culture after the sky battles of WW-I over Europe. The Howie Wing Radio Program was created by Wilfred G. Moore and aired from 1938 to 1939. Wing was a 21-year-old "junior pilot" whose adventures were typical for aviator fiction of the time. He was taught by Captain Harvey, a WW-I ace. Howie's girlfriend was Donna Cavendish. A fellow pilot was Zero Smith, one of the best "tough weather pilots" but cranky, devious, and generally disagreeable, and often suspected of working for the Germans. The villain of the show was Burton York, who posed as an insurance agent to discredit Captain Harvey."

Following is a sampling of tidbits I have enjoyed thanks to the research of Kathy Hammel and her team, who so graciously have shared them with me, and now I share them with you!

When young listeners sent in their two circle K box tops and a nickel, they received the Cadet Aviation Corps handbook, pilot wings and an official membership certificate with their name neatly typed on it. Kathy Hammel

Included in the handbook are these handsome profiles of an "air stewardess" and commercial pilot: Note: click on the pages for easier reading.

Before long other airlines got into the act:

Thank you Kathy for opening up the whole new world (to Lady Skywriter) of old time radio!

l-r Kathy Hammel, Jerry Haendiges, and Kathy's husband  Jim, in Jerry's recording studio
 Jerry digitized and cleaned up the recordings Kathy and Jim found so that they sounded brand new.
 Jerry has a pretty extensive website at

Last but not least, Click here to listen  to episodes of Howie Wing, A Saga of Aviation. Note: I suggest you may find it easier to listen to individual episodes, listed below the collection.

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